by Lane Grindle:
When the college football season ends in January each year the common fan moves on to college basketball or finishes up following the NFL playoffs without much thought. To the fanatical college football fan however, the stalking does not stop.
Message boards and sports talk radio combined with online recruiting services have completely changed the landscape of college football fandom. Coaches are no longer able to live in a shell, block out criticism, and do things their own way without distraction. The distractions today are sitting right on their doorstep.
Recruiting is as big a part of being a fan today as winning and losing on fall Saturdays. Whether a kid is 5-stars or 2-stars can completely change the perspective a fan base may have about their head coach or team in general. Like it or not, the new age of media has had its effect on college athletics.
As a result, kids have changed. Top recruits are celebrated before they even play their senior year of football. They are celebrities without having taken a snap at the collegiate level. They are beginning to act like celebrities too. When a high school junior or senior makes a pledge to attend a university or college to play for that program it is called a commitment. The only issue here is that more and more this is nothing more than an empty promise. In the age of I Pods, gaming systems, and High Definition we’ve upgraded technologically. However, we’ve downgraded in character. Somewhere along the line kids got caught up in the headlines, parents stopped teaching accountability, and fans are left scratching their heads on signing day wondering why their prized recruit changed his mind at the eleventh hour without any real explanation.
Make no mistake, we’ve created this mess. Who wouldn’t get drunk on the attention at 17 years of age? Who wouldn’t buy into the hype that they’re NFL bound before they are even bound for the SEC? Not only have the fans encouraged it, the coaches have too. Dirty recruiting tactics aren’t just prevalent, their border-line necessary to keep a recruiting class intact.
What is a young player supposed to think when Bobby Petrino leaves the Atlanta Falcons in the middle of the season to take another job? Or when Nick Saban doesn’t honor his contract with the Miami Dolphins to go back to the SEC? Or when Rich Rodriguez leaves his alma mater to chase more money at a more prestigious school like Michigan? By not honoring their own contracts, coaches have set an example for kids in the years to come. What is that example you ask? That accountability is merely an afterthought in the world of college athletics today.